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Republicans expand House majority

AP , Wednesday 5 Nov 2014
Boehner
File Photo: Photographers take pictures of U.S. House Speaker John Boehner (R-OH) (R) as he appears before reporters after a Republican caucus meeting at the US Capitol in Washington, October 15, 2013 (Photo: Reuters)
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Republicans claimed a commanding majority in the House of Representatives on Tuesday, pushing their dominance to near-historic levels as they capitalized on widespread dissatisfaction with President Barack Obama.

Republicans easily won the 218 seats required and were on track to match or surpass the 246 seats they held during President Harry S. Truman's administration in the late 1940s. Obama will face a Republican-controlled Congress in his final two years as Republicans regained control of the Senate.

"It's time for government to start getting results and implementing solutions to the challenges facing our country, starting with our still-struggling economy," House Speaker John Boehner said in a statement.

Democrats had a few bright spots, but their hopes of keeping losses to a minimum disappeared under the Republican onslaught.

Republicans dispatched some of the last white Democrats holding House seats from the South in West Virginia and Georgia, continuing a steady march since Democratic President Lyndon B. Johnson signed the 1964 Civil Rights Act and famously said Democrats would lose the region.

Republicans capitalized on growing dissatisfaction with Obama as voters took out their frustration on the party controlling the White House, even making inroads in Democratic strongholds nationwide. Aggressive in the midterms, Republicans claimed three Democratic seats in New York and upended two first-term Democrats in Illinois, Obama's adopted home state.

Overall, Republicans gained 14 seats and counting; Democrats, just one.

In Utah, Republican Mia Love held a narrow lead was poised to become the first black Republican women in the House.

In one bright spot for the Democrats, Gwen Graham, daughter of a former senator and governor, Bob Graham, knocked out two-term Rep. Steve Southerland in a Florida district. Southerland's all-male fundraiser and quip about Graham attending lingerie parties doomed his re-election bid.

Obama's low approval ratings, around 40 percent, were a drag on Democrats, as was the electorate's unease with the Islamic State group threat, Ebola outbreak and the stagnating economy. Promising economic signs of a drop in the unemployment rate and cheaper gasoline failed to help the president's party, which typically loses seats in midterm elections.

Some two dozen Democratic incumbents had been in jeopardy, but just a handful of Republicans faced competitive races. Republican victories in the last such elections in 2010, fueled by the rise of the ultra-conservative tea party, gave the party the advantage in redrawing congressional districts.

All 435 House seats were on the ballot Tuesday, but the roster of competitive races was less than 10 percent of those. The Republicans came into the election holding 234 seats.

A solid Republican majority means Boehner can afford defections from his increasingly conservative caucus and still get legislation passed while Republicans would hold more committee seats to guide the party agenda.

The party that holds the White House traditionally loses seats when the president is not on the ballot, but Obama suffered an ignominious distinction. The president, whose party lost 63 seats in 2010, saw Democrats lose another 12 seats and became the two-term president with the most midterm defeats, edging past Truman's 74 by one.

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